Monarch butterflies are disappearing all over North America, a massacre that is worrying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as almost a billion have disappeared since 1990. Farmers and homeowners all over the United States have been spraying herbicides on milkweed plants, essentially becoming responsible for the monarch butterfly’s massacre. By spraying the milkweed plant, they are extinguishing the iconic butterfly’s habitat and food source, leaving them without a home.
To combat the destruction of the habitat of the butterflies, the National Wildlife Federation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have embarked on a combined effort to grow milkweed in protected areas. Two million dollars of the 3.2 million dollar project is being devoted to the restoration of the 200,000 acre habitat of the monarch butterfly that stretches from California to the far Midwest. The reestablishment of the habitat includes over 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens, which have the ability to at least keep the monarch butterfly population from further decreasing.
Every winter, monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles from Canada and the United States to forests in the central regions of Mexico. In the spring, they travel back to their habitats in their respective nations. The life-cycle of a monarch butterfly is only five weeks, the migration takes an enduring six generations to complete.
Milkweed, the food on which the butterflies feed, is located across the United States, though numbers are sharply decreasing. The availability of the plant is reducing due to homeowners and farmers using herbicides, killing off the plants to make room for other crops and plants. The butterflies spend the winter months in the warmer Mexican climate where they have a greater chance of survival. Though, the Mexican habitat of the monarch butterfly is threatened due to the building of communities and agricultural development near the forests where they reside.
Climate change also interrupts the annual migration of monarch butterflies, affecting the winter sanctuary and the summer breeding grounds. As well, colder and wetter winter season is potential lethal to insects, warmer and more arid summer months could potentially change habitats to more northern areas.
According to the Washington Post, only 30 million monarch butterflies remain in the country. Therefore, the remaining money from the restoration project will be used to open a conservation fund for grants for farmers and owners of large stretches of land to cease the destruction of milkweed. The Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering whether or not to put the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act, thus giving it more protection.
Dan Ashe, Fish and Wildlife Service Director, stated the butterflies can be saved in North America, only if officials, farmers, and landowners act quickly. The conservation efforts will focus on projects along the I-35 corridor that stretches from Texas to Minnesota, areas that serve an important role in providing the butterflies with spring and summer habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service encourages other state and federal agencies to participate in the effort to stop the disappearance of monarch butterflies.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: TexasEagle – Flickr License